Cape Town – Metrorail’s explanations on why commuters in the Western Cape have to put up with severe delays and cancellations, which crippled operations last week were no longer cutting it, train passengers told the African News Agency. Metrorail blames cable theft for the delays.
Spokeswoman for Metrorail, Daphne Kayster, said: “Signal head cable theft at Thornton on Tuesday and cable theft at Retreat on Wednesday, furthermore caused service disruptions with commuters experiencing additional travel times between 30 to 60 minutes on the Northern and Southern Line respectively.”
However, commuters in the greater Cape Town area reported delays for up to two and a half hours on some days, leading to chaotic scenes at Cape Town station.
Regan Duthie, 21, from Parow, is a student and said that the delays were simply a build-up to a severely overloaded train, which was “uncomfortable and horrible”. He said he had been experiencing ongoing transport problems since the beginning of 2016, and a year later not much had changed.
“I got robbed on my way home from class, they held a knife to my head and there was no security in sight,” said Duthie.
Sizinikiwe Gaqa, 21, from Kraaifontein, also a student, said that she was sometimes forced to miss her first class in the morning due to delays by Metrorail.
A friend of Gaqa’s, Sisipho Mqaqambiso, bemoaned the lack of security, saying she sometimes had to take the late train at 7:30pm, which made her feel unsafe. “They once tried to rob me and I had to run away because there was no security.” “If there are delays, I have no choice but to wait, no matter how late it is. I don’t have an alternative,” added Mqaqambiso.
According to Kayster, Metrorail suffered, on average, 47 incidents of theft (cable and other infrastructural components) across the region each month. “If the security was up to par, there wouldn’t be an opportunity for vandalism,” argued Duthie.
Provincial secretary for the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), Tony Ehrenreich, expressed his concerns about the state of Metrorail.
“The delays in the train times are inconveniencing our members. Metrorail is not investing in upgrades of rolling stock and infrastructure and we are considering further action of protesting against Metrorail, for cancellations and delays,” said Ehrenreich.
President of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Janine Myburgh told said approximately 732 000 commuters used trains daily.
“If they were all late, as happens on a regular basis, millions of productive man/hours are lost each month. Making the situation even worse is that delays on the journey home means that commuters also lose valuable family time,” said Myburgh.
Going forward, Myburgh suggested that the train service be stabilised. Metrorail should then start putting new train sets on the railway lines and improve its signalling system.
“If operated efficiently, it has the potential to move two million people to and from work,” said Myburgh.